In 2013, China’s president, Xi Jinping, began discussions about a “New Silk Road.” The project, sometimes known as “One Belt, One Road” and officially named the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), aims to further connect the east and the west while promoting trade with China. Going back to the second century when trade routes connected from China to Europe, the BRI seeks to revive old routes and establish new ones through the building and upgrading of railways, ports, power grids, pipelines, and highways.
The proposed project is massive and already includes over 100 countries, likely costing around $1.3 trillion. Since its inception, the project has been surrounded in controversy, as many critics are concerned that it’s an overly assertive way for a superpower to further extend its influence. Additionally, many of the projects for the BRI involve China loaning countries money so that they can increase infrastructure. As a result, there’s concern that this will leave many countries buried in debt and beholden to China.
Understanding the Belt and Road Initiative
The BRI essentially started with a two-pronged approach to developing trade: the first prong being an overland silk road belt and the second being a maritime silk road. The plans have since expanded to include a southern silk road as well as an arctic route. The primary focuses of the project are infrastructure, transportation, and energy.
While supporters of the project claim that its intended to be an investment into smaller markets, further globalization, and establish peaceful trade networks, critics see the project as a disturbing effort by China to increase global power and to use money for political gain. The United States is particularly skeptical about the project and has expressed concerns about the BRI’s goals.
What the BRI Means for Businesses
Amidst concerns about the project and the power it could give China, the United States is working to establish other routes and networks to connect the east and west. In this increasingly complex and competitive environment, it’s important to stay up to date with what’s going on in China, with the BRI, and with trends in Asia.